I would describe myself as someone who is reserved and has to be comfortable with someone first before I open up because I wear a sarcastic attitude and am a perpetual prankster. As a result, I often appear shy or quiet, but once I’ve warmed up, I unearth the essence of comedy out of the most straightforward conversation. I think I’ve applied this to myself to compensate for my stern appearance because, growing up, people have told me repeatedly that I look as if I’m always angry.

I had a coworker whom, at first, I rarely interacted with. This coworker we will call Kara. I’d known her previously about five years prior because she was the sister of one of my childhood friend’s girlfriends, but we were never acquainted.

When I got promoted to closing manager, we worked together more often. I was in a relationship then, and Kara was married. But, being the jokester I am and eventually finding comfort in my sarcastic and comedic self, we grew closer.

She was a couple of years older than me. I had always been accustomed to a man being older than the woman in a relationship, so I never would’ve pondered any feelings towards Kara. I never sensed any from her either. But down the way, my personal relationship ended, which affected how I carried myself around at work.

My attitude had changed, and when she noticed, she asked if I was ok. In my vulnerable state, I expressed what had happened, and she consoled me, which I found comforting. However, things took a turn when I started receiving texts from her asking how I was doing and what I was doing on my days off.

I was confused about how she got my phone number, so I asked her, and she said she had jotted it down from a list in the office with the names and phone numbers of shift supervisors. I felt a wave of guilt as we proceeded to exchange text which sapped me like a drought because I felt estranged talking with a married woman, and I felt stranded thinking of ways to express it to her in a friendly manner.

It went on for about two weeks until I received a text from her phone, but it was her husband. “Stop talking to my wife. I know who you are.” Her husband and I had gone to grade school together. We knew of each other mutually through similar groups of friends. That sense of guilt instantly took root, and I felt regret and remorse. Part of me wanted to explain myself, but as I thought about it, I only thought it would sound like I was making excuses to save my hide, so I decided not to reply and hoped it would blow over.

The next few days coming into work weighed heavily on my shoulders because the guilt deeply lingered as if it were visible to the rest of the world, as if my skin had turned inside out. I felt exposed. Like I was identified as the main villain of a story. The sense of shame that I felt was as if I wore it over me like a shirt.

I was scheduled to work the following two days, but she wasn’t. So I would ponder every possible scenario of how we would approach this issue each hour that passed. Whether we would bring it up or live and let it die. Honestly, though, I felt uneasy with each reply, but I couldn’t think of an excellent way of expressing it in my vulnerable state. But, on the other hand, Kara checking up on me put me at ease, and perhaps because of that, the cloud of guilt felt so suffocating.

Following her two days off, I dreaded coming to work because the verdict was bound to be revealed on how we would handle the situation. Nevertheless, I came in with my usually optimistic attitude and focused on keeping my sights forward. As I reviewed how the first part of the day went so I could manage accordingly for the closing shift, Kara found the opportunity to walk to the office and say, “I’m sorry.” With a sense of relief, I, too, apologized and assured her that it would be ok and harm was never my intention. With some weight lifted off my shoulders, I felt the scales would lean back to normalcy. Unfortunately, Kara’s sister suddenly broke my sense of security the following week.

Kara was off work, but her sister had come in just minutes before closing time and grimly said, “My mother would like to speak to you.” I walked, terrified, to the other side of the store where she waited, and every worst-case scenario played in my head as if I would skip through a book. Finally, she brought up the issue and stated that her son-in-law was furious to discover this. I apologized and explained that I had never exchanged phone numbers with Kara and that she had received my number from the list in the office. She then protested me and asked, “If you have feelings for my daughter, then we can talk about it because I know who your family is, so if something is going on here, then we can negotiate.” I politely told her there was no such instance here, and I apologized for the trouble.

I felt like the main big evil villain in this instance, and it felt disheartening because that’s not who I want to be. But at the same time, I didn’t want to build another wall for myself because growing up; I’ve always had an internal struggle with expressing myself.

I blame neither of us because we both made mistakes. Due to our raw emotions, we strayed away from the paths that we were on. Instead, we tried to find a sense of comfort in each other, to fill the void we both were experiencing in our life.

Even though we both allowed anger and sorrow to cloud us from the path we hold dear, I still believe that path deserves a second chance to heal and regrow. I also hope that the path becomes more substantial than before. Because of that probability, I would never want to stand in the way or prevent that occurrence from transpiring.

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